Written by Kellie O’Shea

‘Tis the season of resolutions; the time of year for over-commitment to unrealistic change; the repeated pledge to fiscal and physical fitness; the foreshadowing frustration of auto-pay gym memberships.  Whether professional goals or personal resolutions, this process is one of the important ways we commit to continuous growth and self-improvement.  These personal promises can sometimes be difficult to chart and navigate.  Below are 6 helpful tips to help you set and achieve your goals in 2015.

  1. Make it specific and measureable. Celebrating the win is the whole idea behind goal setting. To win, there needs to be some measure of success of the goal.  Making generalizations such as “being a better person” or “being more organized” are hard to quantify.  Committing to clear measureable resolutions or goals will help you focus.  For example, attain a certification, reduce employee turnover by 10%, grow sales by 20% from last year, audit those personnel files you’ve been trying to do for years, lose 8 pounds.  Be clear about what you are aiming for so it is easier to measure and succeed.
  2. Make it relevant.  Make it something you NEED or WANT to achieve.  There is nothing worse than being pressured on a self-imposed goal you despise or don’t think is important.  If running is not your thing, don’t make your goal to run the Boston Marathon.  Pick something different.  Concentrate on areas that you believe will make you better and you have some personal connection to.
  3. Break it down. Don’t let your goal overwhelm you.  Divide your goal into practical steps on how you will achieve it.  Like almost any Par 5 on a golf course, your best course of action is generally not to get on the tee box and hit for the hole.  The better approach is to first understand the yardage, wind, traps and hazards before you hit.  Once you understand the lay of the land, you can decide based on your swing, clubs and position, how you will get to the hole.  For example, if your goal is to reduce employee turnover, first understand what is happening today through current data, conversations, surveys, exit interviews, internet and social media points.  Once you have the lay of the land, apply the right tools and strategies to address specific points to move the needle and measure again at the end of the year.  If weight loss is your goal, what decisions and steps will take every day to attain the desired amount?  If you want to lose 8 pounds in one year, that’s 0.15 pounds per week.  If you changed that 3pm cookie snack to a vegetable snack, you are well on your way to success.
  4. Aim high but be realistic. You want your goal to drive and push you to new personal heights.  It should not be easy but it should be attainable.  I realize at this point in my life, I will not likely be on the LPGA Tour or a contender in the Ironman Triathlon, however, I can set goals for myself that will push me beyond my limits today but within my physical range of reality such as running three 5Ks in 2015.  Those who set their 2015 goals on professional promotions should reach for the stars (like your parents told you) but given each unique organizational situation, perhaps that supervisor opportunity may come before the CEO opportunity.  Be true to the realities around you.
  5. Integrate it. Make your goal part of your daily life.  Tie it back to everyday living.  Tell your spouse, friends and colleagues so they can route you on or add support where needed. That added pressure of public commitment will help drive you.  I like to hang a visual of my goal in the bathroom so it is the first thing I see in the morning when I get up.  It motivates me right from the start and reminds me to make decisions around the goal I have set for myself.
  6. Make it forgivable. We don’t always achieve our goals for various reasons.  In some cases we didn’t put in the appropriate effort.  In some cases, unforeseen events or forces at work beyond our control prohibited us from reaching our goal.   The important takeaway of not achieving a goal is a true introspection on the circumstances.  Why did I not achieve my goal?  What could I have done differently?  What did I learn?  What will I do differently next year with what I learned?  Equipped with this information, forgive yourself.  Set your sights on new goals and continue to apply what you learned through this experience.